The Masters: When you are this good, you don’t need a brand

Apr 8, 2022 | Mastery

Azaleas, Dogwoods, and Jonquils.

Shorts, sundresses, and pretty girls.

Pimento cheese, Coca Cola, and pecan pie.

Springtime in Georgia can only mean one thing…

The Masters!

The greatest sports and marketing event of all time is once again upon us.

It is an event unlike any other. Founded on tradition, passion, and a desire to succeed, Augusta National hosts the world’s greatest sporting event every year.

Best of all they do it on their own terms.

I have to admit, the Masters is special to me. It’s not just the wonderment of the event, but the showcase it brings to the South and the good things we are capable of providing.

The people of Georgia roll out their gracious hospitality to everyone who visits our land. The local language is unique, but we never judge anyone for at least trying to get it right.

For example, the Masters is not really “the Masters”, it’s simply “the tournament”.

The “ruff” (high grass just off the fairway) is referred to as the “1st or 2nd cut”. My favorite is of course the drink… it’s simply a “coke”. Regardless of what you want, if you just order a “coke”, everything will work out fine.

Over a decade ago, some folks from a faraway place (anywhere outside the Georgia state lines) tried to challenge some of Augusta National’s traditions, and frankly, they failed.

One person in particular (I am way too polite to name names) thought it was their business to try and influence others to boycott “the tournament”, because Augusta National was not run the way she (the person who will remain un-named) thought they should. Now keep in mind, this person was not a member of the club, nor did she have any stake in what happened down Magnolia Lane. She simply wanted the people of Augusta National to “think and behave” the way she did.

This odd request of hers (the name that shall not be spoken), involved picketing “the tournament” (did not work), speaking against “the tournament” (failed again), and best of all, asking people to stay home and not attend (really did not work). In fact, in great irony, her efforts to inflict her ideals on others not only failed, it made things better.

In response to her request, Augusta National did the unthinkable.

No, they did not bow down to her wishes. The members of Augusta National (with great Southern charm) actually “relieved” their corporate sponsors of any obligations. They allowed all sponsors to back out of their contracts. With grace, they were offered to abstain from “the tournament”, if they felt compelled or threatened by the person who shall remain unnamed.

Additionally, they (the membership of Augusta National) created a new rule: “the tournament” would no longer allow brands to be displayed on their grounds. This was done not out of arrogance, but respect.

In summary, the “club” felt that the battle waging was a single attack upon their membership and their way of doing business (privately). So, instead of allowing their sponsors to be hit with any collateral damage, they simply let them go, and went at it alone… or so it seemed.

What happened next made even the best golfers in the world turn their heads in amazement.

When Augusta National went to their biggest sponsors and told them that they were not going to allow brands to be represented at “the tournament”, it was a bigger deal than most people could have imagined.

In fact, it was a $1 BILLION decision.

Yep, that is $1 Billion with a capital “B”.

Wow, I wonder how many other organizations would have done something like that?

The legends that surround Bobby Jones are forever etched in Atlanta history. He was the person who put golf on the map and made it “everyone’s game”.

He won 3 British Opens, 4 US Opens, and a total of 9 PGA Tour events.

What most people don’t remember, is that he won them all as an “amateur”.

That’s right, Bobby never went professional.

In fact, he actually made his living as a lawyer, but he did have the smarts to capitalize on his fame (after he retired) with golf course design and equipment sales.

Bobby lived an amazing life and in many ways encapsulated what Augusta National is all about. Even today, 50 years after his death, his presence is felt.

As a boy growing up in Atlanta, I was never exposed to any of the riches usually associated with the private golf clubs and the likes of the Master’s. To put it bluntly, it seemed like someone else’s life whenever I watched it on TV or read about it in Sports Illustrated.

As a child of the 1960’s there was a lot going on in Atlanta. The goodness of golf and the charm of Bobby Jones, had to struggle with headlines from a much darker part of our history. I remember those days well, both good and bad.

Interesting enough, Bobby Jones actually touched my life 30 years before I was born.

In the 1930’s my grandfather was a local Atlanta butcher who would work countless hours serving his products in a retail world where money was scarce. The Great Depression was in full swing and the world prepared for war, so it was not the best of times to sell prime rib and steaks, but he worked hard and provided for his family.

One of the stories he passed on to me involved a gentleman who would always come into his shop just seconds before he closed for the evening. It was a ritual that occurred every Saturday night, and was so well timed, my grandfather could set his clock by it.

Shortly before it was time to close, my grandfather would wrap a special cut of beef, place it in the paper, and hold it under the counter. Then, just as he would walk to lock the door, a man would walk in, smile, and lay the exact change on the counter. In turn, my grandfather would hand him his meat, thank him, and watch him leave.

This ritual went on for years.

The man of course was Bobby Jones.

The story to this day makes me smile. When I was first told this story, I was curious about the routine, but smart enough to ask “why?”.

It seems that Bobby Jones was not only a great golfer, but a great man as well.

Apparently, Mr. Jones liked steak, but was acutely aware that many in the world were starving, and had little to eat. He also knew that if they saw him enjoying the good fortune of his work and serving steak, they might not appreciate it or would interpret it the wrong way.

Bobby was aware that as an individual, he had his own “brand”. It was a brand he protected, and did not want tarnished by allowing someone else to express his or her opinion regardless of his own intentions.

He had arranged this process with my grandfather in order to control the opportunity for others to damage his “brand”, and it worked well for many, many years.

70+ years later, something amazing happened when Augusta National decided to respect others by offering to walk away from a billion dollars in brand advertising.

Imagine what it takes to risk it all and potentially pass up $1 billion — not of your own accord, but in response to your belief that others deserve to be treated fairly, even when you are not.

Augusta National never wavered, and in turn something wonderful happened.

Instead of their top sponsors “pulling the plug” and taking their dollars elsewhere, they elected to stay with the Masters, but with a hitch.

There was one requirement: they would all remain anonymous.

You see, even to this day, over a decade after an unwarranted soul decided to embark her feeling on others, and 50 years after Bobby Jones passed away, brands are protected at the Master’s, even to the point of silence.

Best of all, no one cares.

You see, when you have a brand like Coca Cola, Budweiser, Heineken, Snickers, and Lays Potato Chips, its not about the logo, but what you deliver.

Jointly, and without any holding back, each of the sponsors allows for the sale of their products without a single logo or a brand name visible… anywhere.

They even produce a special line of product packaging where any resemblance to their brand is removed, and it is offered only at the Masters.

When you are as good as these guys, and everyone knows it, things work out for you, even when you have to go out of your way to protect your brand.

So at the Master’s this week, it is not just about the incredible golf, but what the best of the best do in order to protect themselves and their brands.

It is simple, and it always works out.

On the grounds this week if you want soda, just ask for a “coke”, they know what you mean.

If you want a beer, they will ask you if you want “domestic”, “domestic light”, or “import”… i.e. you will not be disappointed.

Candy Bar? It’s the best.

Potato Chips? Yep, you get by now.

When your brand is as good as the traditions that make up the world’s greatest sporting event, you don’t have to worry about people knowing your name.

Just like “the tournament” itself, you don’t have to know the golfers names to know they are the best in the world.

When tradition, grace, and style meet at a place where you are free to protect your brand while serving those who appreciate your craft, it is a wonderful place.

Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you the best part of my grandfather’s relationship with Bobby Jones.

Every night, when Mr. Jones would come into his butcher shop, my grandfather made two duplicate orders.

When he picked up the steak, Bobby Jones paid for both orders and took them away with a smile and a generous “thank you”.

What people never knew was, that while Bobby Jones was careful to protect his “brand”, he took a double order every night and gave it to a needy family somewhere in Atlanta.

He fed a new family every night, and none of them ever knew his name.

Welcome to the Masters.


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